Swept off our feet by a knight in shining armor with Kristina Circelli
RCPR: Your next book, DAMSEL NOT, comes out on Oct. 12th. What makes this one stand out from the other novels you’ve written?
Kristina: For starters, it’s my first romance . The book is similar to my others in that its characters are deeply flawed in many ways, but I think it’s different because of the subject matter. Love isn’t typically the driving force in my books like it is in this one. Plus, it has a hot knight. That’s a first for me!
Intrigued by DAMSEL NOT? Check it out here:
RCPR: What was your favorite book to write? Why?
Kristina: Definitely Fragile Creatures. Although the topic itself isn’t necessarily happy, as it focuses on a teen struggling to accept her father’s death, the concepts surrounding the book made the writing process enjoyable. I used to work at the zoo and for a shorebird rehab center, so obviously I love animals (more than most people…). Getting to put that knowledge and experience into a book was so much fun, especially when it came to writing about the animals, as the two main ones (a giraffe and goat) are based on animals I know and love. In fact, I’m going back to visit them on my birthday and I can’t wait!
RCPR: What was the hardest book to write? Why?
Kristina: That would be A Single Swim, which is an awareness book about a brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria fowleri. For starters, it’s my first non-fiction book, so it was hard putting aside my fiction-minded brain to write about real, hard science (which is extremely confusing to me). I not only had to understand the biology and ecology of the amoeba, but also be able to explain it to the average reader.
But more than that, it was hard because the book tells the stories of real victims of the amoeba, mostly children, and one of which was my cousin. I interviewed the families and worked with them on some awareness events. It was hard writing about these sons, daughters, husbands, brothers, sisters, who aren’t made-up characters, who were and are still so loved. My main concern was telling their stories right and doing them justice. The book was about and for them, and the families’ approval meant everything to me. The whole process was more difficult than I imagined it would be, but so worth it in the end.
RCPR: You teach creative writing for a living. Where do you find the time to write? Do you have a routine you follow?
Kristina: Well, I don’t actually teach anymore. I used to, but decided to take a year off to start my editing business, Red Road Editing, and see where it went. That actually ended up taking off like wildfire, so I didn’t go back to teaching. I have a full-time job completely unrelated to writing, my editing business, and my books. To be honest, I think I’ve forgotten what “free time” feels like .
I don’t really have a routine. I have my set hours at work, then come home and edit, and I write in between those jobs. The laptop is nearly attached to me at this point.
RCPR: Is there something that you need in order to write? Like a cup of coffee, chocolate? Silence?
Kristina: I have to have background noise, so the TV is almost always on at my house. Usually something I’ve seen a hundred times before (I love reruns!), both TV shows and movies. I am a movie junkie so I enjoy writing to them. Food wise, I don’t really need anything, but I won’t turn down a cold Mr. Pibb and bag of blue Doritos.
I almost always write on the couch. And if I’m on the couch, I must have a couch blanket. But that’s a given whether I’m working or not. I think I have seven blankets at the moment. This may be symptomatic of a soft couch blanket-buying problem.
RCPR: Happily Ever After? Or not?
Kristina: Eh, I can take them or leave them. I think people (authors and readers alike) often get too hung up on the HEA, and that’s just not real life to me. Sometimes it surprises me how angry people get when there isn’t a HEA. I don’t believe in insta-love and I’m a cynic in most aspects of my life, so it’s safe to say most of my books have a bittersweet ending. Will the guy get the girl? Maybe, but something pretty depressing will likely happen along the way. Or, who knows, maybe one of them will die. It’s a given that at least one person gets killed off in every one of my books, whether a bad guy or the one everyone loves most.
If it feels natural, then I’m not against a HEA. But more often than not I just focus on the character’s journey, and I rarely know the end of the book when I start writing, so I have no idea if it will end in a HEA until I actually get there.
RCPR: How many drafts do you go through typically before you are ready to hand it over to an editor?
Kristina: Hmm, hard to say! According to other authors, I have a weird process. I call my first draft my “skeleton draft” because it is just one long document of text with no chapter or section breaks, and usually scenes missing that I didn’t feel like writing at the time. After I finish the skeleton draft, I do my first read-through. During that time, I read for grammar and plot issues, and write those missing scenes. The second read-through, I add chapter and section breaks while fixing other issues I come across. Then I usually send it to my mom to read since she is great at pointing out areas that conflict or don’t make any sense (and she yells at me when I kill characters she likes). Sometimes I’ll send it to a couple others.
After I get their feedback, I make those changes while doing a third edit. I think that’s when it goes to my editor. But, I don’t send it to her unless I feel it’s as perfect as possible. So, I guess about four drafts? But that may change if I feel it still needs work.
After I get it back from the editor, I make her changes and then read through the whole thing again. Depending on the time, sometimes I put the manuscript away for a month and then go back to it to see if there’s anything I want to change.
What is one thing you wish readers knew about you or your work?
I take pride in being a storyteller, in weaving together words. Maybe it’s my Cherokee heritage peeking through my weirdly pasty skin (seriously, I should go outside more often). For me what matters most isn’t so much what happens in the story, but how you tell it. I absolutely love writing itself and will agonize for hours over something as simple as using “a” versus “the” or whether a character should make a sentence a question or a statement.
Sometimes my tendency to obsess over what seems like minor details is annoying even to myself, but I like to think it’s worth it in the end. I want readers to love the journey of the story as much as they love the story itself. I want them to be there, in the scene, able to see and hear and feel everything the characters do.
RCPR: Best fan memory?
Kristina: I don’t honestly know that I have a favorite. I love when I can talk to young readers who want to be writers but never realized that their dreams are actually possible. When they hear how young I was when I started, or how they really can publish a book, it’s awesome to see how excited they get. So often kids are told that they dream to big or that their writing/publishing goals are just pipedreams, and I like getting to go in and tell those young aspiring writers to listen to me instead, because their dreams are 100% possible.
Working with everyone in A Single Swim was extremely rewarding as well. The families were so gracious, and they trusted me to tell their loved ones’ stories and share them with the world. I continue to work with them and I hope that in the future we can really make a difference.
RCPR: What is the perfect day for you?
Kristina: Christmas . An average day, though? On the beach with my husband, just hanging out, no electronics, lots of junk food, hardly any other people around.
Wait. Maybe an all-expense-paid day at Disney World. THAT would be pretty damn perfect.
RCPR: Some authors use music and even create soundtracks for their books. Do you use music when writing?
Kristina: Nope, not even a little bit. As much as I love TV and movies, I’m not really a music person. I haven’t listened to the radio in probably two years, except when Christmas music plays from Thanksgiving to Christmas. When I drive, I listen to soundtracks and film scores, but to be honest most of them are Disney related, with the occasional Pink and Carrie Underwood and Adam Lambert thrown in.
RCPR: What other projects can we expect to see from you in the future?
Kristina: Lots! Next year I have two books planned. One is the sequel to Fragile Creatures, which originally wasn’t even planned but I caved under fan pressure . The other is a secret but will be contemp with the slightest of fantasy. I’m not sure how to classify it yet, as I’m terrible when it comes to categories.
BUT 2016 will be pretty awesome. I recently signed a 5-book contract with Permuted Press for a new horror series. This will be the Five Flames series centering around a home in Savannah, Georgia, that houses five evil spirits. Each book will focus on the unlucky person who encounters one of those spirits, and the havoc that ensues as a result. These will be my first horror books, and since being possessed is pretty much my number 1 fear in life, I plan on being constantly terrified for the next two years
Her latest series, The Whisper Legacy, features Beyond the Western Sun. This book is what all fantasy adventures must strive to be: a complex, intricate examination of human emotion set within the context of worlds known only in our imagination. Melding fantasy and legend in an epic quest, this series signals the arrival of Kristina Circelli as a master storyteller and an important voice in Native American literature.
A descendant of the Cherokee nation and niece of a Cherokee elder, Circelli holds both a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English from the University of North Florida, where she teaches creative writing. She also heads Red Road Editing, a full-service editing company for independent authors and commercial clients.
She currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband, Seth, and cats, Lord Finnegin the Fierce and Mr. Malachi the Mighty.